Prep teams hit road for playoffs
The Grand Junction and Fruita Monument high school baseball teams will have to win on the road if they want to play for a Class 5A state title.
Both play on Saturday in the Class 5A district playoffs. Pairings were released Monday by the Colorado High School Activities Association.
The No. 20 seed Tigers (13-6) will play No. 13 Ralston Valley (12-7) at 12:30 p.m. in the first round of the District 3 Tournament at Columbine High School.
With a win, Grand Junction would play the winner between No. 4 Columbine and No. 29 Mountain Range at 3 p.m. in the district final.
The winners of the eight four-team district tournaments will qualify for the double-elimination regional/state tournament that begins May 18.
Tigers coach Kyle Rush said Steve Baldwin, who is 6-0 with a 1.97 earned-run average and 59 strikeouts, will start on the mound the first game, and Casey Burns would start the second.
Grand Junction won the Class 5A state title in 2005 as a No. 4 seed.
“You just have to win two and get hot,” Rush said. “You’ve got six hours to play two games. Get hot and throw strikes.”
The Tigers have won five consecutive games.
No. 27 Fruita Monument (11-8), meanwhile, will play No. 6 Dakota Ridge (15-3) at 10 a.m. in the District 8 tournament at Dakota Ridge High School.
“You’ve got to think that in their minds we’re the soft team in the group,” Fruita coach Ray McLennan said. “Not to say that we’re soft, but in their minds that’s got to be what they’re thinking.”
It’s a possibility McLennan likes.
“I don’t mind our seed at all,” McLennan said. “And the park we’re about to play in is small, about 350 feet to center. Our offense has been showing the ability to be able to hit the ball deep. Hopefully we swing the bats well.”
The Wildcats, who have hit 10 home runs this season, led by Drew Bridges’ four, would play the winner of No. 11 Legacy and No. 22 Cherokee Trail at 3 p.m.
The Class 5A and 4A girls soccer tournament times were finalized Monday.
In Class 5A, No. 18 Grand Junction (10-4-1) will play at No. 15 Fairview (8-5-2) at 6 p.m. on Wednesday.
“To be honest, I’m glad we’re on the road,” Tigers coach Joe Graham said.
Graham said he thinks the bus ride to Boulder will help the Tigers.
“It’s a good way to focus,” Graham said. “You’re talking with your teammates all day.”
Leah Swander leads the Tigers in scoring with 15 goals and five assists.
But last week, after a win at Central and a tie with Montrose, Graham selected center-back Sam Melchor as his player of the week.
“She’s been steady all year,” Graham said. “She likes to play outside winger, but due to an injury she ended up as one of our center-backs. I was surprised how well she complemented ‘Rabbit’ (Becca Hansen) in terms of working together.”
The Tigers hosted in the first round last season and lost to Legacy.
In Class 4A, No. 26 Palisade (9-5) will play at No. 7 D’Evelyn (8-4-3) at 5 p.m. today.
“We’ll have the mindset we’ve had every other year,” Palisade coach Raina Sorensen said. “We’re definitely not the upper-hand, but if we go in and work hard and play the Palisade way, we always have a chance.”
The “Palisade way” holds true for soccer as well as other sports.
“It’s heart and toughness,” Sorensen said. “A lot of times we’re matched up with teams more skilled than us.”
But, Sorensen said, the Bulldogs can always show up and out-work a team.
Palisade lost last season in the first round of state to Palmer Ridge, 1-0.
The Grand Gents high school rugby club is in the state championship and will play PAC at 8 p.m. on Wednesday at Infinity Park in Denver.
The Grand Gents defeated Boulder on Saturday, 21-15.
“We’ll be playing in an actual rugby field,” Gents coach Doug Evans said. “It’s a $5 million rugby field, we’ll be under the lights, the jumbotron, this is a big deal.”
The Gents are in their third year since merging with the Aspen Rugby Club.
Last season, the Gents lost in the semifinals.
“(PAC) beat us last year and beat us in the regular season,” Evans said. “We were missing some players that weekend so I’m hoping we’ll come over and they’ll think they’re going to beat us and we’ll spank them.”